Discovering the titles on my annual best albums lists, is a year long pursuit where I sample lots of new music. What I listen and look for are a combination of aesthetics and context. How does the music sound, how are the musicians informed by what's been done before, and how does their music add to the conversation? Evaluating music based on these criteria are what most excites me. The albums on this list are my favorite releases from 2022. You can find a playlist on Spotify that features one track from each album.
Artist: Night Shop
Title: Forever Night
Label: Dangerbird Records
Night Shop is the solo project of Justin Sullivan. He is probably best known for playing drums for Kevin Morby and stints with Flat Worms and The Babies. This album features Meg Duffy on guitar (Hand Habits), as well as Jess Williamson, Anna St. Louis, and Jarvis Taveniere from Woods and Purple Mountains.
I basically love everything about this album. The vibe, the excellent songs, and its total lack of pretension. It sounds a little like a record Roy Orbison would make if he was in his 30's in 2022. This is just a timeless rock and roll record and baby there is nothing wrong with that!
Night Shop's "Forever Night' is my album of the year for 2022.
Title: So I Can See You
Label: Rhythm Section
TONE, real name Basil Anthony Harewood is a South London based songwriter, musician, and producer. I would describe his music as slow-core-down-tempo-beat-oriented-minimalist-urban-pop-with-a-twist-of-ska. What ever you call it, this record hits all the sweet spots. Great songs and a range of styles. Perfect album for straight-up chillin!
Artist: Porridge Radio
Title: Waterslide, Diving Board, Ladder To The Sky
Label: Secretly Canadian
Porridge Radio are a British indie rock band who formed in 2015. They are fronted by vocalist, songwriter and lead guitarist Dana Margolin. The other members are keyboardist Georgie Stott, bass guitarist Maddie Ryall and drummer Sam Yardley.
This is a really nice indie-rock record and one that I listened to a lot in 2022. If I had this on vinyl, side A would be my favorite. With that said,"The Rip" on side B is one of my favorite of the record's 13 tracks.
Artist: Kenny Beats
Label: XL Recordings
Louie is the solo debut album of American hip hop producer Kenny Beats. Though best known for producing albums for other artists on LOUIE Kenny takes on his own soulful style. The album, a tribute to his ailing father is a personal statement by a skilled studio technician. You like hip-hop soul? Take this album for a spin!
Moin is Joe Andrews and Tom Halstead (Blackest Ever Black) as well as long time collaborator and percussionist Valentina Magaletti. Paste, the band's first release, is a really fresh take on alt-rock where both the music and vocals are sort of hard to describe. While there are traditional arrangements of guitar-bass-and-drums the band's utilization of complex rhythms, distortion, samples, and tight arrangements keep things interesting. The vocal tracks are a mix of spoken-word stories and fragments of conversations. This record reminds me of the album "Palace Intrigue" by Household Gods. If you like this record then that is an album you need to checkout. You're welcome!
Title: Orange Is The New Black
Label: Antelope Records
Robert’s full-length debut blends piano and guitar rock samples with spoken-word -rap vocals. Lyrically dense and autobiographical, the album was conceived and crafted during a stint in a UK prison. With guests including Kool Kieth and Slug of Atmosphere this record has all the street-cred it needs. Thankfully, the songs live up to the sum of their parts. The artist's selection of samples perfectly set the stage for each track. Together, the words and music have a cinematic vibe.
Artist: Spiral Stairs
Title: Medley Attack
Label: Amazing Grace Records
Scott Kannberg is a founding member of Pavement and so you might say, he's alt-rock royalty. Since Pavement fizzled out some 20+ years ago, Kannberg has had numerous projects but none that I have enjoyed as much as Spiral Stairs. Medley Attack is the third Spiral Stairs record in a row that has made my year's best list. In 2017 there was "Doris and The Daggers". In 2020, the band released "We Wanna Be Hypnotized". I recommend all three of these records! At times Spiral Stairs' music reminds me of David Bowie but most of the people I say that to disagree. You'll have to listen and form your own opinion. Below, a note from the artist.
“It’s definitely been the weirdest and the hardest record to make, but I think I like it the best, really. I think they’re my best lyrics — they’re pretty dark, but they’re pretty honest and they tell stories a little more than in the past. And originally it was really going to be a stripped-down swan-song record — I really didn’t want to get a bunch of people involved — but I ended up getting so many of my closest friends and people I admire to help and I couldn’t be prouder of the results. It’s kind of made me want to make more records!” - Scott Kannberg
Artist: Oren Werlin, Johan Berthling, Andreas Ambarchi
Label: Drag City
This trio features Oren Ambarchi, Johan Berthling and Andreas Werliin. Ghosted's four tracks borrow from jazz, world, and experimental musics. The sound is at times eerie, distorted, trance inducing, and hypnotic. With scrawls of guitar and feedback layered on top of highly skilled rhythmic accompaniment. This is a truly gorgeous record of fully enveloping soundscapes. Headphones recommended.
Artist: Afghan Whigs
Title: How Do You Burn?
Label: Royal Cream / BMG
The Afghan Whigs are an American rock band from Cincinnati, Ohio. Their brand of soul infused alt-rock has been a staple in my universe since the late 1980's when they were one of Sub Pop Record's first signings from outside of the Pacific NW. While the band's post 90's releases fail to live up to that decade's output, they still bring the heat. Despite lineup changes over the years, vocalist/guitarist Greg Dulli and bassist John Curly still remain from the band's earliest incarnation. Dulli is an accomplished frontman who has had prolific career with the Afghan Whigs and his secondary project the Twilight Singers. Curly has been one of my favorite rock bassists for a few decades now. I saw them in concert in 2022. Way too loud, as usual!
Artist: Craig Finn
Title: A Legacy of Rentals
Label: Positive Jams / Thirty Tigers
Craig Finn is an American singer-songwriter and musician. He is best known as the frontman of the indie rock band The Hold Steady, with whom he has recorded eight studio albums. His solo work is consistent with his previous output and that's a good thing. If you enjoy highly literate rock music - where each song unfolds like a short-story - you might enjoy spending time with "A Legacy of Rentals".
Title: Georgia Gothic
Label: ATO Records
‘Georgia Gothic’, Mattiel’s third full-length album, is another example of this Atlanta based band's consistently high-quality output. Except for this album's opening track, I like this album as much as anything the band has done to date. If you like a little pop with your indie-rock, Mattiel's radio friendly songs are the kind that stick in your head.
Artist: Yahritza Y Su Esencia
Label: Lumbre Musica / Columbia
Yahritza Y Su Esencia are a sibling trio from Yakima, Washington. They are fronted by singer, songwriter, and acoustic guitarist Yahritza Martinez, who is backed by her older siblings on acoustic bass and 12-string guitar. Their music weds Mexican regional music, drawn from the ranchera and corridos traditions, to acoustic folk-pop. That teenagers are capable of this level of talent and musicianship is commendable.
Label: Joyful Noice Recordings
Oneida is a five-member genre-defying experimental rock band from Brooklyn, New York. 'Success' marks the bands return to a more guitar-centric sound. This record sounds like New York in the best way possible. The perfect combination of feedback, dissonance, and cacophony.
Artist: Panda Bear & Sonic Boom
Label: Domino Recording Co.
Reset is an album by Panda Bear (Animal Collective) and Sonic Boom (Spacemen 3). It marks the duo's first collaborative album although each artist has appeared on the other's records in the past. Much of the album is built on a bedrock of sampled loops taken from 1950s and 1960s pop songs. This gives the album a vintage sheen that lands someplace between The Beach Boys and Galaxie 500.
Title: Guitar Music
Label: Play It Again Sam Recordings
Guitar Music is the debut studio album from British band Courting.
Title: Pink Dolphins
Label: International Anthem Recording Co.
Anteloper is a duo consisting of Jaimie Branch on trumpet & synths plus Jason Nazary on drums & electronics. Pink Dolphins was produced by Jeff Parker (The New Breed, Tortoise, Chicago Underground), who also plays guitar on some tracks. Constructed from hours of recorded improvisations, the album is a spirited example of free jazz with brass, synths, and percussion producing an enveloping sonic palette.
Label: Rough Trade Records
Born in 2017 as a three-piece post-punk band Caroline has since added five additional members and seen their sound shift into something more expansive.
Artist: Delicate Steve
Title: After Hours
Steve Marion, aka Delicate Steve, is one of my favorite contemporary guitarists. His talent for writing gorgeous melodies lends itself to his equally beautiful instrumental soundscapes. This LP — written and recorded on a 1966 Fender Stratocaster — features psychedelic loops and guitar solos accentuated by Pakistani bassist Shahzad Ismaily’s grooves and Brazilian percussionist Mauro Refosco’s beats.
Artist: John Dwyer
Title: Gong Splat
Label: Castle Face Records
Ryan Sawyer: drums
Greg Coates: upright bass
Wilder Zoby: synth & mellotron
Andres Renteria: conga, bongos & hand percussion
John Dwyer: guitar, synths, pan flute, cuica, percussion, space drum & effects
Title: The Jacket
Label: Captured Tracks
Widowspeak is an American indie rock band from Brooklyn, New York. Their music is a dreamy blend of pop that sounds like Fleetwood Mac meets alt-rock. The band consists of guitarist and vocalist Molly Hamilton and guitarist Robert Earl Thomas.